Truth be told, something else happens that night. You’re standing there with your wishy washy lackluster love interest JACK, and in walks THIS GUY. You’ve never met him, never seen him, and yet, you’re standing there, next to Jack, on New Years Eve, and THIS GUY comes right up to you and introduces himself, chats, engages, unapologetically flirts, gets you a beer and another. He has an intense, direct gaze, the kind of look that makes you feel like the side of your face is burning off when he looks at you because his inquiring mind WANTS TO KNOW. Accordingly, you’re disarmed. He’s the exact opposite of airy fairy unreliable, noncommittal Jack. You can see it, first thing. He’s solid, with broad shoulders and a barrel chest. He stands on the fucking ground. He’s confident, smart, and no bullshit. He’s nice. He’s interested. He’s a MAN. THIS GUY, Rocco, tells you you’re pretty like, 15 minutes in. He laughs at your jokes, asks if you need anything, and when you do, like a glass of champagne, he gets it for you. Within minutes he’s standing a few inches too close and brushing your shoulder with his – it’s a party, it’s crowded, but still. You feel the electric cord running up your spine, and think to yourself, “This is the guy I SHOULD be dating. This is my next boyfriend,” then you immediately feel guilty because you’re there with the sweet adolescent Jack.
It’s New Years Eve, food, drinks, drinks, the buzz of a party and all of a sudden, the clock is counting down and 2012 is nearly over. You kiss Jack at the stroke of midnight and then brazenly plant a big wet kiss on Rocco’s cheek. The first kiss of 2013.
It takes awhile to get it all sorted. You friend him on Facebook on January 2, and within minutes he’s accepted your request. A week passes. There is a party at Jacks house on the 6th, some football thing, and you go in hopes that Rocco will be there. He is. He sits next to you. It is January winter cold outside but next to him, it’s warm. It’s all you can do to not reach out and put your hand on his leg. You want to tug on his beard or rub your hands through his hair. Or lay your head in his lap while you sit on the couch and watch football together. All of those things would be completely crazy, inappropriate. So? So, you do none of them. He leaves the party early.
The push and pull with Jack continues but you know the expiration date has passed and the sweetness between you has soured. You have a final blowout at the bar. Of course, the bar. There is snow on the ground and it’s 15 degrees outside and sitting next to Jack makes you feel even colder. His thin blue hands grip his glass, his voice is thick with whisky, his ice blue eyes are searching, but not for you. You realize that everybody loves him. Everybody except for you. Pity is not love. It feels closer to loathing. You walk the four miles home in your red suede high-heeled boots. Is it still January? It’s easy for a relationship to die in January. But it’s January 2013. Something must begin, too.
Valentine’s Day is imminent. Love wishes must be made via Valentine’s. You send out a request for mailing addresses via Facebook. Rocco is the first to respond. “You are wacky.”
You retort: “I prefer the term ‘kook’ or ‘wack-a-doo,’ over ‘wacky.’ But, you can call me whatever you want. Just don't call me late for dinner. More specifically, drinks!”
“You are officially kooky then. What's your plan for Super Bowl?”
Of course, you have nothing going on. Hoorah! He offers to pick you up even though he lives across town, and the party is across town in the opposite direction. He has a CAR. Also, it’s a really NICE car.
The party is fine. Neither of you watch a single second of the game. You just talk and get to know each other and drink beer. He has a job. A GOOD job. He owns a house. He’s traveled. He has two dogs. He loves dogs. At one point he puts his hand on your shoulder and asks if you need anything. He makes you a plate of food and you share a fork. But, you are both reserved. Is this a date?
He drops you off at home. He texts you in an hour. “Thanks. I had a nice time.” You respond, “I think you mean, thanks!!! You are awesome and that was super fun!!” He calls. You laugh together and talk late into the night. Yes, you both had a nice time, and now it’s time to go on your first real date.
You make plans for Thursday; he likes to make a plan! And he calls every day on his way home from work, and then again before bed. You talk and talk and talk. He sends flirty texts. He flatters. You IM. Email. Damn. There is nothing hard about it. Ya’ll just get ALONG. After months of straining and striving with Jack you can’t believe how easy and lovely this is. You forgot it could be easy. What a relief. No pushing or pulling, no dancing, hemming, hawing. He’s forthcoming about his interest in you. He says, “You know, we make a cute couple.” He’s right. How nice of him to notice. And to tell you!
Thursday. You’re excited. He’s excited. You go have appetizers and drinks and the conversation; the interaction, the energy, is warm and buzzy. Just like on New Years. You move to a second restaurant – a pizza place with a good beer menu – more drinks and habanero pizza. You both love spicy food.
One piece in. Is it the beer? The pizza? Something shifts. Palpably. He starts talking about Jack. And how it’s too soon. And how he doesn’t want to hurt anybody or make problems with his friends. What? Where is this coming from? You try and argue. No, this thing with you is different. You want to see where it goes. Jack was never your boyfriend and that relationship was over before it even started. You have had too many beers to make sense, to argue with intelligence and force. You are frustrated. Confused. Concerned. Rocco stands up. Is he leaving? He walks to your side of the table and takes your face in his hands and kisses you full on the mouth. It’s a movie kiss – dramatic, passionate, breathtaking.
But, you resume fighting. And then kissing. And fighting. You are like magnets, alternately attracting and repelling each other with the invisible force of the universe. He takes you home. He comes inside. He gets cold and stern. He leaves, you run after him, you try and make sense, make peace. What the hell is happening? Who has a knock-down-drag-out-fight on their first date? He leaves. He peels out. He speeds down the road.
A few days later you get this text: “I’m sorry. I hope you’ll consider seeing me again.”